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SUCCESS STORY

Robots support the cultivation of live-attenuated vaccines

In the cell factory of Changchun Keygen Biological Products, 12 Stäubli six-axis robots fulfill a very special task: handling containers with live-attenuated vaccines and making them oscillate. This accelerates the reproduction of the active ingredients under controlled conditions.

CUSTOMER BENEFITS

  • Production under sterile conditions
  • High and continuous productivity
  • High stability of the robot arm
  • Precise and speedy handling of cell factories
  • Workers relieved from heavy labor
  • Connectivity with central automation system

TASK

A new automation step for cell factories

Production of live-attenuated chickenpox vaccines in an aseptic environment: This is the purpose of a new “cell factory” operated by Changchun Keygen Biological Products. Systems integrator Shenyang Great Elites engineered an automated solution with 12 Stäubli TX200 Stericlean robots used to oscillate the live vaccines with high intensity in their cultivation containers.  

With an annual production capacity of eight million doses, Changchun Keygen Biological Products (CKBP), established in 2003, is the biggest manufacturer of chickenpox vaccines in China.

When CKBP decided to build a new production line for these live-attenuated vaccines, the management brought its plan to Shenyang Great Elites Intelligent Equipment, a systems integrator well-familiar with the automation of critical processes in biopharmaceutical production.

Automation was required not only because of the high output, but also because this kind of production requires a strict, sterile environment to eliminate all potential xenobiotics, impurities, and contamination caused by personnel to the greatest extent possible. A high level of automation is a prerequisite for the safe production of high-quality vaccines.

SOLUTION

Twelve aseptic robots for the cell factories

The two core processes of vaccine production are cell factory passaging, including the addition of active ingredients like trypsin and a growth medium, and cell factory inoculation, where the containers filled with the liquid base substance are “fed” the varicella virus and other ingredients. After this, the containers must go through defined movements – like shaking, flipping, oscillating, and recovering – in sequence.

In the first process, cell factory passaging, four robots are involved. In the cell factory inoculation and cultivation steps, eight robots perform multiple tasks, including harvesting and cleaning the cell factories. A robotic tool change system allows for automated filling and emptying of the liquid vaccines and changing of the factories. Each robot is relatively independent and can alternately handle two stacks of cell factories. Changing the cell factories is enabled by quick change tools from the Stäubli portfolio.

The automation experts from Shenyang Great Elites opted for 12 identical robots in the cell and virus culturing stages. The six-axis Stäubli TX200 robots are available in the Stericlean version, which means they are designed for the very special environment in which they are working: critical applications in aseptic GMP Class A production areas, where they have proven themselves thousands of times over.

CUSTOMER USAGE

Fast, precise and low-maintenance

Apart from the high-grade hygienic requirements, there were other reasons for selecting the Stäubli TX range. Cai Yan, General Manager of CKBP explains: “The robots perform their tasks with high precision, high productivity and availability, and minimal maintenance requirements.” Robust drive systems were another important aspect, according to Cai. “The cell factories oscillate frequently and at high speed. This requires extremely high stability of the robot arm.” Another strong point is the connectivity of the robots. Their control system is integrated with the pipeline automation system, offering fully automated vaccine production management.

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